MIDDLETON, NS - Howard Selig has been grinding flax flour for a lot of years. In fact this year marks two decades of milling gluten-free flours and mixes in Middleton.
Nova Scotia’s Premier dropped by Valley Flaxflour Jan. 22 to see how he does it. Stephen McNeil toured the one-of-a-kind facility and learned about the process, the business side of it, and the health benefits of a line of products that are good for you.
Selig earned the Taste of Nova Scotia Product of the Year for his Pancake and Cookie Mix in 2016 and earned the Outstanding Innovator of the Year award in 2017 from the Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce.
British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver used Valley Flaxflour’s products in his protein bread recipe that was in his book Superfoods.
McNeil visited as co-owners Selig and Wendy Rodda kicked off their 20th anniversary celebrations. Cookies and coffee for the Premier included Selig’s own recipes and the two discussed the high-fibre and cholesterol-reducing benefits of flax in your diet.
The link between Selig’s specialty products and health is no accident. Selig is a chef and registered dietician and the company grew out of the need in long-term care facilities for a source of milled flax seeds.
In fact, he finished his job at a nursing home in the middle of February 1998 and started Valley Flax Flour right after. They’d already been using his product, and that was before the health benefits of flax were common knowledge.
The mill has grown since then and now includes milled brown and golden flax, whole flax seeds and pancake mix for the retail market -- plus flax for horses.
“Our first product line expansion was in to the equine market,” Selig said. “We had horse owners that came along and said ‘Howard, do you know how good flax is for horses?’ And I said ‘no.’ So they educated me and then started to buy the flax from us for their horses. They still do. We just came back from a horse show in Fredericton, New Brunswick. We sell through the larger retailers around Atlantic Canada.”
Selig’s other passion is to create recipes for the flours they mill, mix, and package. You can drop in to the mill or go online to find recipes that help get the greatest taste and highest health benefits from the products.
Flax seeds provide high quality protein, omega-3 fats, soluble and insoluble fibre, anti-oxidants, and phytoestrogens, Selig said.
The mill also boasts a retail outlet with all products on display. Besides the flax seeds, flax flour, and pancake mix, the gluten-free mill produces buckwheat groats, buckwheat flour, oatmeal, whole rolled oats, shake and smoothie booster, all-purpose flour mix, bread dough mix, cake and loaf mix and more. They even sell soap.
The natural bowel care program at the nursing home where he worked all those years ago was using his flax flour and nursing homes are still his number one customers.
“Actually our biggest market is in Ontario,” Selig said. “So most of our product is exported to other areas of Canada.”
“It’s amazing what they’ve been able to do here, taking a natural product and not only building a business but also improving health at the same time,” said McNeil. “This is exactly the kind of thing that the province wants to continue to create an atmosphere for and continue to foster. People creating their own niche, creating their own opportunity in the communities that they choose to live in. Twenty years is amazing. There are lots of businesses that don’t see 20 years. That they’re seeing lots of positives for the next 20 is really encouraging.”
Back in 2016 when Valley Flaxflour won product of the year, Selig said nutrition had been the focus of the company since it started.
“What’s the most nutritious product that we can make?” he said. “And not only what makes it nutritious but what makes it easy for a consumer to use. We don’t want complicated recipes that someone has to run off to a store and buy five different ingredients. We want them to be able to take our product out of their cupboard, combine it with other products they have in the cupboard and make some muffins, make some cookies, make a loaf of bread. You know, with the flax it’s as easy as adding it into the cereal they’re already eating every morning, so it’s not complicated to get that nutritional kick to start your day.”
Besides retail outlets, Valley Flaxflour products can be purchased at the mill in Middleton at 188 Marshall Street.
For more information about Valley Flaxflour, including a full listing of our products, recipes, and information on how to place an order, visit the website at www.flaxflour.com.
-- Valley Flaxflour Ltd produces freshly milled ingredients, mixes, and blends from Canadian produced seeds and grains with no genetic modification (non-GMO).
-- All Valley Flaxflour Ltd products are gluten free.
-- The public can visit the mill and retail outlet at 188 Marshall Street, Middleton, NS.
-- Easy to use recipes are available on their website. www.flaxflour.com.
-- Valley Flaxflour products are sold in Sobeys retail stores across Atlantic Canada. They are also available in local markets in the Annapolis Valley and mail order throughout Canada.
-- The pancakes are easy to make, hearty, delicious, and they keep you full for several hours. They are also a great way to add local maple syrup, yogurt, and fresh fruit to a meal.
-- Selig creates a recipe a month to send out to the nursing homes.